The objective of this paper is to analyse police decision-making about protest policing. While previous quantitative studies of protest policing rely mainly on newspaper data, this study presents an alternative design to tease out how the police decide irrespective of what protesters do during demonstrations and to study ‘net’ protest policing. We propose to focus on the decisions police officers take before the actual protest event takes place. Drawing on the existing literature of protest policing we test hypotheses about police preparation for protest drawing on two concepts: police knowledge and protest threat. To test our hypotheses, we use a unique dataset of police records of demonstrations in Brussels, Belgium, between 2001 and 2010. The dataset contains full data about the official demonstration permit requests submitted by protest organisers. Our results confirm our expectations and show that police previous experience with protesters and the level of threat are important factors in explaining decision-making prior to protest events.
Policing and Society